The complete guide to Guatemalan coffee
It’s well-known throughout the coffee drinking world that Central and South America are behind some of the best and most delicious coffee. We can’t talk about the best types of coffee without discussing Guatemalan coffee. Guatemala is one of the most recognisable and respected coffee cultivars in the world.
Located between Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras, it has the perfect growing conditions for coffee, which is what helped it turn a simple crop into one of the country’s biggest industries. In this guide, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about Guatemalan coffee, to give you the key facts about one of the most popular coffee growing regions.
What is Guatemalan coffee and why is it so special?
Renowned for its distinct, regional varieties, each with their own original profile, Guatemalan coffee is in a league of its own. The flavours and aromas you get in each brew cover a broad and diverse spectrum. You can expect strong, full-bodied coffee variations, some with a chocolate or toffee finish, and others with a hint of acidity and a fruity finish.
One of the main reasons that Guatemalan coffee is so popular is because of the growing conditions it enjoys practically all year round. A naturally mountainous region, Guatemala and its crops have the advantage of being grown on steep slopes that experience high altitudes. The presence of mountains creates a microclimate which provide unique growing conditions and affect the development of the crops.
Also, the country encounters almost constant rainfall, meaning the fruits are never lacking hydration. Combine that with the mineral rich soils that come from consistent volcanic activity, and you have the perfect conditions for growing the world’s best coffee.
The history of Guatemalan coffee
Despite coffee being introduced to Guatemala as early as the mid-1700s, it wasn’t until 1860 that production really started. Before that, the plant was only used for ornamental purposes. However, when the carmine dye industry declined, the government was searching for new industries to increase the economy.
Coffee quickly entered the spotlight thanks to the country’s temperature climate and good growing conditions. The first small plantations started in Amatitlan and Antigua, with the industry soon flourishing in these areas.
In other parts of the country though, development was slow. A serious knowledge gap and lack of modern technology for rapid expansion stunted progression. Guatemala also didn’t have many skilled labourers, meaning coffee production couldn’t be ramped up as quickly as they hoped. However, as the years went by, the country sourced the knowledge, skills, and equipment required to successfully cultivate coffee.
Large parts of Guatemala were clear candidates for cultivation, and different varieties of coffee started to show up around the country. Nowadays, there are several regions of Guatemala that are known for their distinct coffee. Guatemala Huehuetenango coffee for example, is one of the most popular variations.
Region and coffee bean properties
As previously mentioned, coffee production is split into several distinct regions based on cup profile, soil, climate, and altitude. This means that each region grows its own individual bean with a unique taste and flavour profile. Let’s explore some of the most popular regions for growing coffee.
Antigua is certainly one of Guatemala’s most famous growing and volcanic regions. The town sits in a valley with three volcanoes circling it – Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango.
Of these, only Fuego is still active. Antigua gets its name from this valley. When Fuego occasionally erupts, it leaves a fresh layer of ash across Antigua’s soil.
This might sound like a bad thing, but the ash is actually very good for the crops, and it helps the soil become some of the most nutrient rich and fertile around. The rich soil, low levels of humidity, cloudless days, and cooler nights, are all factors that enable Antigua to create some of Guatemala’s best coffee.
Huehuetenango is one of the more remote regions and one of Guatemala’s three non-volcanic areas. It is the highest and driest of these regions and because of the dry, hot winds that blow up from the valley underneath, Huehuetenango is protected from frost. This enables its crops to thrive at the high altitudes.
The high elevations and warmer climate have led to one of the country’s most delicious coffee varieties. Guatemala Huehuetenango coffee beans have a light and sort of buttery body with a floral aroma and a clean finish that drinkers enjoy having on their palette.
The Acatenango Valley is west of Antigua and experiences the same volcanic dusting from the Fuego volcano. Coffee in this valley is grown on steep mountainous slopes that go up to 2000 metres covered by the shade. It is one of the newest regions to be labelled a distinct growing region by the Coffee-Growers Association of United Acatenango.
Coban is a rainforest which means it is almost always raining there. In fact, the region takes its name from the Maya Keckchi word that means “place of clouds”. Due to being grown in north-central Guatemala, coffee from Coban has many of the properties found in all good Central American coffees.
These qualities include a medium to full body, a light and fruity acidity, and a rich flavour with subtle notes of spice. If you enjoy wine as well as coffee, you’ll definitely enjoy the wine resembling notes in this type of coffee.
What are the best brewing methods for Guatemalan coffee?
The pour over is one of the most common ways of brewing coffee in the world. For Guatemalan beans in particular, it’s a great way to draw out the natural acidity in the coffee. With this in mind, a light roast will likely give you the best results.
Pour over is the perfect method for acidic beans because of its use of filters. Unlike other methods that depend on steeping, pour over works by pouring hot water through a filter to extract the flavour from the beans.
The French press uses a full immersion process to steep the coffee grinds and take out the flavour. It’ll probably be the preferred option for individuals who like a stronger, more robust flavour, and it is well-suited to darker roasts. Therefore, it’s good for maximising the full body and sweetness associated with some Guatemalan variations.
Cold brew is the perfect method for drawing out the sweetness, full body, and hint of acidity found in Guatemalan coffee. The process works by steeping grinds in a lot of water for up to 24 hours. After steeping for such a long period of time, the resulting brew is so strong that it’s a concentrate.
So, it needs to be mixed with milk or water before it can be served. Once complete, a cold brew is a very smooth drink that surprisingly misses out the bitterness you normally find with coffee.
Where to buy Guatemalan coffee
If you’re looking to buy fresh Guatemalan coffee beans UK, Pumphreys Coffee can help. Our Huehuetenango coffee is one of our most popular medium roasts and is not one to be missed. It's deliciously sweet and fruity notes are commonly known and appreciated by coffee enthusiasts around the world. Grab a bag of Guatemala Huehuetenango coffee beans from us today and you won’t want to try any other.